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Polians fired by Colts’ Irsay

He doesn’t waste time in cleansing

Owner Jim Irsay said yesterday that there is a good chance coach Jim Caldwell will return to the Colts next season. Owner Jim Irsay said yesterday that there is a good chance coach Jim Caldwell will return to the Colts next season. (Michael Conroy/Associated Press)
By Michael Marot
Associated Press / January 3, 2012
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INDIANAPOLIS - Cleaning out the Colts front office may be only the start of the changes in Indianapolis.

Team owner Jim Irsay fired team vice chairman Bill Polian and his son, Chris, the Colts’ general manager, yesterday. He said there was a good chance coach Jim Caldwell will be back next season, but his evaluation was not over.

Irsay also still must decide whether a healthy Peyton Manning and a new quarterback can coexist in the same locker room, and which veteran free agents come back next year, if any.

“I don’t think there’s ever been a year in the NFL where a team went 2-14 and there’s not been changes,’’ defensive captain Gary Brackett said yesterday, less than 24 hours after a season-ending loss at Jacksonville.

Outsiders had expected the first order of business to be the firing of Caldwell, who won 14 straight games and advanced to the Super Bowl in his first season as Colts coach in 2009. Caldwell said he simply went about his business yesterday, speaking with Irsay following the 19-13 loss at Jacksonville and with both Polians yesterday, part of his usual routine.

“You lose as many games as we lost in a year, there’s a problem, there’s an issue,’’ Caldwell said. “But when we were 14-2, the way you guys put it, my job was in limbo then, right?’’

The elder Polian had constructed Super Bowl teams in Buffalo and Indy, and an NFC title contender at Carolina.

But troubling signs emerged this season as the Colts lost time and time again - 13 straight at one point - with Manning sidelined to recover from Sept. 8 neck surgery. And it was Manning who suggested he and Bill Polian were not on the same page.

Polian said on one of his weekly radio shows that he and the four-time league MVP had discussed the possibility of establishing a transition plan at quarterback and that Manning was OK with it. Manning later said the two had never discussed the 2012 draft plans, which include the No. 1 pick amid speculation that the Colts will take Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck to groom as Manning’s successor.

Then, just before Christmas, Polian told local reporters that Manning would fail his exit physical, a move that actually would help the Colts because it would allow him to continue working out at the team complex during the offseason.

“That was kind of news to me,’’ Manning told reporters Sunday, then said he probably could pass the physical.

Fans have been clamoring for the ouster of Caldwell and both Polians. Irsay, a frequent poster on Twitter, has been listening.

“I want 2 thank all ColtsFans..here,throughout the country n abroad,4ur tremendous,loyal support all year long. Ur feedback is heard n noted,’’ he tweeted yesterday morning.

For their part, players offered support for Caldwell, who just wrapped his third year as head coach.

“One thing about Jim is that he’s a stand-up guy, and guys respect that,’’ cornerback Jerraud Powers said. “He’s a great coach, a good guy, and it was an unfortunate situation this year. But he never lost the locker room.’’

The longer and, perhaps, more critical debate is how to rebuild this team and what to do at quarterback.

Manning never played after undergoing his third neck surgery in 19 months, a fusion of two vertebrae.

He did, however, start throwing to teammates in mid-December and received good reviews from Bill Polian and running back Joseph Addai.

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